Sunday, February 20, 2011

Opening Day Flashbacks, 1971

Now that camp is in session, the anticipation of Opening Day has hit the next level. I've been sick for a number of days and haven't been able to get back to the flashbacks from past Opening Days- so I resume with 1971...

Monday, April 5, 1971. Riverfront Stadium- Cincinnati, Ohio

With ace Phil Niekro on the mound, the Braves got off to an early 4-0 lead as they batted around the lineup in the second inning against Reds' starter Gary Nolan. The Reds would put a run up on the scoreboard in the fourth, and then tie the game in the sixth on a double by Frank Duffy. Atlanta would come back with one in the eighth and two in the ninth for the 7-4 win. Amazingly, despite committing six errors, the Reds' only allowed two unearned runs.

Player of the Game- Felix Millan
Millan, the slick fielding second-baseman for Atlanta, was once called "the closest thing to a perfect ball player as I have ever seen" by manager Lum Harris. On this day, Millan was perfect at the plate: going 4-4, with a walk, 2 runs scored, and an RBI. "The Cat" drove home the first Braves score in the second inning with a single. Later, with the score tied 4-4, he led off the top of the eighth with a triple, and then would score what would prove to be the winning run on Reds' third baseman Woody Woodward's throwing error while trying to throw out Clete Boyer.

Pitcher of the Game- Cecil Upshaw
After missing all of the 1970 season, Upshaw entered the game in the bottom of the sixth after Niekro failed to get an out. Knucksie had given up a two run homer to Tony Perez, followed by a single to Johnny Bench.
A wild-pitch and two outs later, Frank Duffy doubled off of Upshaw to bring in Bench-who was the tying run (a run which was charged to Niekro). Upshaw would not allow any other runs, however, over the course of the next three innings as he picked up the 'W'.

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